Downtime is not an option for this data centre, never ever

The city of Mechelen is home to the data centre of AlphaCloud, a brand-new Tier III+ facility spanning not less than 3,000 m2 and entailing high uptime requirements. Following an intensive selection procedure, AlphaCloud chose ICTroom as the integrator to take care of the implementation of this energy efficient, state-of-the-art data centre.

The initial phase spans 3,000 m2. Proven technology has been used for the Tier III+ data centre, which with a PUE of 1.3 is above average in the industry.

A brand-new Tier III+ facility in Belgium

The requirements set for the data centre are exceptionally high. Consequently, selecting a partner to take care of the implementation is something that was done with a great deal of care, and it took a considerable amount of time to reach a decision. Dirk Vanermen is CEO of AlphaCloud. He explains that ICTroom's credibility was already evident to him as early on as the pre-sales process. Vanermen: ‘We eventually came up with a shortlist of two bidders. Both parties' proposals were then subjected to testing by an independent party enlisted to this end. ICTroom came out on top in the noise study, and both bidders had similar scores in the PUE analysis. We wanted to build a data centre with proven technology. So we asked the bidding parties to demonstrate where they had implemented a comparable data centre in the past. ICTroom were able to do so. This only added to our confidence in them.’
“We wanted to build a data centre with proven technology.”

Tier III

The unique thing in the case of AlphaCloud is the Greenfield approach. The data centre has been built from scratch on an undeveloped plot adjacent to Mechelen railway station. The location was chosen due to the availability of important electricity and telecommunication networks. Dirk Vanermen: ‘It's always easier to start from scratch. Working with existing premises means you quickly impose restrictions on yourself. Here all aspects of the building were of our own choosing. The technical rooms have been built and arranged entirely in accordance with our wishes. The unique thing is that we've actually built three data centres at the same time. You see, the building comprises three compartments operating more or less independently of one another. It's a Tier III data centre. One of our customers' requirements. Downtime is not an option for this data centre, never ever.’

Demonstrate where you have implemented a comparable project in the past. ICTroom were able to do so

"Downtime is not an option for this data centre, never ever"


ICTroom acted as integrator and constituted a solid adhesive layer between the myriad parties involved in the construction. Dirk Vanermen: ‘Plenty of companies can't or won't take on this task. ICTroom is keen to take on ultimate responsibility. In the beginning we thought we'd need to act as the architect's principal, but that lasted less than three weeks. Soon enough, virtually without us noticing, ICTroom's project manager took over this role. I thought this was fantastic, because we always got to hear what was being agreed. We ourselves don't have the know-how required to conduct those technical discussions. It's a highly specialized industry and so you've got to be able to rely on the other party. Obviously this trust is something that has to grow, and the pre-sales process was instrumental in this regard.

We ourselves don't have the know-how required to conduct those technical discussions

Inventive solutions

What complicated matters was the fact that the process from selecting the construction company to choosing ICTroom to organize the interior and act as integrator spanned eight months. That presented considerable challenges for both AlphaCloud and ICTroom. Vanermen: ‘The construction firm quickly came up with all manner of questions to which we didn't have an answer. Such as where the pressure-relief dampers and the conduits for cables needed to be positioned. We didn't yet have this kind of crucial information, because we hadn't yet selected an integrator. What's more, during the project our customers frequently asked us to implement changes. That was a tough challenge for ICTroom, with them being required to implement scores of changes. Fortunately ICTroom were always ready and willing to immerse themselves in our thought processes. We frequently found ourselves thinking that a change could potentially entail a great deal of expense, but then ICTroom would come up with an inventive solution and it would turn out that they could still do it for the same cost price. These were positive experiences, and only served to confirm that we'd made the right decision in selecting ICTroom. Thus midway through the construction one of my customers suddenly declared that he needed a ventilated server room. Anything's possible, of course, but I'd first want to check that this chimes with the wishes and needs of AlphaCloud's other customers. In the end ICTroom devised an ingenious system that now ensures there is a gentle ventilation flow in all rooms. With fire dampers for fire safety reasons. What's more, it's also budget-neutral. Great news for my customers, whom I was able to tell that it wouldn't be costing a penny more.’

I was able to tell my customers that it wouldn't be costing a penny more


The construction and interior of the data centre were done in the same period. It was therefore necessary to think outside the box. Thus the construction firm would still be erecting the walls at the front whilst ICTroom was already building equipment at the rear. Furthermore, there was one day when the data centre suddenly became inaccessible because the access road had to be relaid. Finding an alternative route proved tricky, as heavy rain had turned the site into a huge muddy pool. Dirk Vanermen: ‘In such cases, some parties would say they'll be back when it dries out. ICTroom, on the other hand, say c'est la vie, the show must go on, and they get on with the job. Another thing that struck me was that ICTroom's people are exceptional when it comes to negotiating with parties that are difficult to deal with. They deal with them very well indeed, and I know that things weren't always equally straightforward for them.’

On time and within budget

The completion date for the data centre was set in stone, but a sharp frost still put this in jeopardy when it resulted in a supplier being unable to install the high-voltage power supply, says Dirk Vanermen. ‘The completion date for the high-voltage unit was precariously close to the completion date for the data centre. The fact that ICTroom nonetheless managed to pull things off is no small feat. They even worked two weekends round the clock. That was a huge help to me. Whether or not I'd be able to open in line with the planning was something that mattered a great deal. Any delay would have entailed considerable financial consequences for AlphaCloud. For AlphaCloud it was all or nothing. By completing the data centre on time and within budget, ICTroom were a great help to me. ICTroom is big enough to tackle this project, but still small enough to think quickly on its feet and adjust course accordingly.’

Whether or not I'd be able to open in line with the planning was something that mattered a great deal

Each compartment of the data centre is fitted with an emergency power supply system, such as UPS and NSA. Moreover, AlphaCloud is connected to the power network of Infrabel, the trusted energy supplier to the Belgian railways. Vanermen: ‘That's something that is vital for our customers. After all, whatever happens, the train services keep running and our data centre doesn't run out of power. The data centre's uptime is exceptionally high. To test that assertion, we gave it our best shot, but it required a tremendous effort. We even had to go beyond the procedures and switch off extra equipment. And even then it took another half hour before the data centre was genuinely no longer operational. It subsequently switched itself back on entirely of its own accord.’ The acceptance test for the data centre was carried out in the presence of AlphaCloud's customers. Vanermen: ‘The interest was so considerable that we couldn't even accommodate everyone who wished to attend. The tests went very well indeed. Our customers were extremely impressed and now have full faith in this data centre.’